BEMIDJI – A year after recording its first 10-win season since 2007, the Bemidji State softball team opens its 2013 campaign today in St. Paul against Northern State and MSU-Moorhead.
The team will play four games in St. Paul this week before playing four more games on March 1 and 2 in the Kelly Lass Memorial Invitational in St. Cloud.
Of the first eight games of the non-conference season, six will be played against NSIC opponents.
“We play many teams that are ranked right around us in the conference early on,” senior Crystal Bowen said. “If we can beat them right away before the actual conference season that would be really nice.”
From there the Beavers will head to Titusville, Florida for their spring training season.
“We get a good mix of teams down there,” Bemidji State head coach Rick Supinski said of playing in Florida. “Sometimes our first game down there is against a team that has played 15 already, but by the time we are leaving, we end up playing a team which was just like us.”
Getting out of Minnesota to play outdoors in Florida is a highlight for the players.
“It is going to be awesome,” senior Kelsey Saralampi said of playing in Florida. “It has been hard being stuck in the Glas (John Glas Fieldhouse) for a couple of months, because taking groundballs off of the concrete is nothing like playing on the dirt. That being said, we are lucky to have the facilities that we do have so we can practice in the winter months.”
“It is so nice,” Bowen added. “We have been looking forward to it for six straight months now. It is really nice to get outside and get right back into our season.”
Supinski and Bowen are the only two seniors who have been around for each of the last three seasons.
“It will be different this year,” Saralampi said. “I have always experienced the team from a younger role, so with me and Crystal being the only ones who have been here for four years, it is up to us as leaders to work to improve the program.”
Saralampi will be counted on to lead the pitching staff for the first time in her career at BSU. An injury that will keep fellow pitcher Allison Roberts out of the circle for at least a few weeks puts added pressure on the senior.
“Kelsey has a heavy load on her, especially in this first set of games,” Supinski said. “She will have a lot on her plate to throw a lot of early innings and keep us in games.”
Freshman Lyndsey Peterson will be counted on to fill in for Roberts while she is out.
“It is going to be a rough stretch before Allison gets back,” Saralampi said. “Lyndsey coming in as a freshman is going to have a lot of pressure early on, so we will have to count on each other.”
Bowen will look to step back into the middle of the batting order and improve on last year’s .209 batting average.
“I want to work on being a leader,” Bowen said. “I know that my main goal is to step in and start driving in some runs this season.”
“She is very solid defensively at third base,” Supinski said of Bowen. “This year we really want her to hit the ball like she can and like she did two years ago. She has been working hard every day to be a three or four hitter for us.”
Another key contributor to the Beaver offense will be sophomore center fielder Summer Monsrud. As a freshman she posted a .306 batting average and stole nine bases.
“She is one of those kids that brings excitement to both the dugout and the field,” Supinski said. “When she is on her game, she is fantastic to have at the top of our lineup. This year, she has been working a lot on her slap-hitting. She is getting better and better at reading the field and deciding where she wants to slap it.”
Supinski is entering his second season as head coach at BSU, and that is something that has not happened in the four seasons since Bowen and Saralampi arrived.
“We have had a lot of things change over the years, so it has been really nice coming back this year and knowing what to expect,” Saralampi said.
“Him being back for a second year shows a lot of promise for the program,” Bowen added. “He is definitely here to stay and is taking this program in the right direction.”
Supinski knows that a turnaround of the program will not happen overnight. He knows that it will take hard work, commitment and patience from both the players and himself.
“I think we are going to be more competitive in every single game,” Supinski said. “We implemented an off-season training program that held everybody at a higher standard. We have just set the bar higher to be more competitive in the conference.”